After a 10 year break, label owner & underground veteran Titonton Duvanté unearths his Midwest label Residual Recordings. He pleasantly kicks off with a re-issue of his classic Pornographic EP, the fifth release in an impressive catalog of hard-to-find records by heavy-duty artists. Pornographic was originally produced in 1999, not even one year after the label’s inception in 1998. During the nineties Titonton studied music composition at university, all the while being part of the innovative techno band and dream team Body Release (Titonton, Todd Sines, Charles Noel, Mike Szewczyk).
Since the age of 5 when he first set his fingers on a keyboard and made his first very own song, Titonton has been living, breathing and cultivating music, having made his mark on respectable and leading labels, such as Detroit and Daniel Bell’s 7th City, Dan Curtin’s Metamorphic Recordings, Morgan Geist’s Environ and Matthew Herbert’s Phono. Till this day he has stood the test of time, having produced two solid releases in the past few months: His Persevere EP on YAY and Volume II of his Refraction series with Christopher Rau, Jeff Samuel and Garrett David on Residual. Here we have the honour to hear about these releases and more from the man himself…
Hi Titonton! So first of all thank you for this interview! How are you? How’s New York and how long have you been living there?
Hey there. I’m doing well. Rather busy but in the best way possible! I’ve actually decided to leave the hustle and bustle of New York after living there for 8.5 years, to return to my hometown Columbus in Ohio…the Midwest USA. It’s been wonderful and productive thus far… really allowed me to get back into the music.
That’s good to hear! We love that you’ve relaunched your label Residual Recordings. It’s had a lot of success. Rush Hour released Boo William’s Residual EP back in 2010 that featured tracks originally released on Residual Recordings between 1998 and 2001. You know that that EP soared the charts right…
Thank you [smiles]
And now your repress of your Pornographic EP (on Residual) is out on record stores around the world, such as decks.de, deejay.de, Hard Wax, Red Eye Records (UK) and Technique Tokyo. You have a great catalogue of releases so tell us, why did you choose Pornographic?
I feel like this release (REZ 005) is strong. It’s house and techno vibes. And that Morgan Geist remix is a killer too…it’s got to be one of my favourite moments from the label.
Can we expect more re-releases from your label?
100%! I’ll be repressing at least 5 more releases from the back catalog. There are about 17 in total that I can choose from…
As well as re-issues you have new music that’s scheduled to be released on Residual Recordings. Refraction Volume 2 is coming out soon, which features you, Christopher Rau, Jeff Samuel and Garrett David. You’ve co-produced with Christopher Rau, while Jeff Samuel was part of the original Refraction Volume 1 (REZ 014). How about Garrett? And how did you decide which artists to showcase for this release?
It is worth a mention that there’ll be solo EPs from Jeff and Garrett to be released on Residual. I have no immediate plans to collaborate with Jeff or Garrett but I won’t rule out the idea. Jeff is a long time friend and I have always liked his productions – he really has a knack for sound programming. Garrett is VERY talented and his tracks just groove. They’re gritty and have that deepness that I like to hear.So the B-side of your Pornographic EP features a remix from Morgan Geist. Whilst your styles are pretty distinct from one another, you do both share a “Detroit” background. How did you meet? And how did you end up producing music together?
Morgan and I met in November 1994. We were both signed to Dan Curtin’s Metamorphic Recordings. At the time, Morgan was at college in Ohio. Dan gave him my number and we became friends almost immediately – something just clicked. We would talk for ages about music influences and the like.
You both collaborated on a Titonton & Morgan EP that was released on Phono in the UK, even though it was originally intended for Morgan’s Environ label. Why did it end up being released on Phono?
When Morgan sent the test pressings out for Environ 003 the distributors thought the record would be too complex for buyers. They didn’t think it would sell. Then Matthew Herbert heard the tracks and loved them, he snatched them up right away and the rest is history as they say. [smiles]
It’s fair to say that both you and Morgan draw influence from other genres. In an interview on As You Like It, you mentioned that you were putting together an album of “Dilla influenced hip hop” and “Depeche mode influenced synth pop”. What would you say are your favourite Dilla and Depeche Mode sounds and have you ever sampled these artists?
That’s a tough question for me to answer! Dilla has so many amazing tracks. I don’t know if I can narrow it down! Depeche Mode is a little easier for me… My favourite Depeche Mode album has to be Black Celebration. For me, their golden era was their trio of albums: Black Celebration, Music for the Masses and Violator. As for sampling, I haven’t sampled either Dilla or Depeche Mode but I have covered Depeche Mode’s “Stripped” in a few live shows.
Wow I would love to hear your version of “Stripped”! It’d be great to hear about the concept of your upcoming album. Do you have any ideas in mind as to what label you’d like to release on?
I started working on music for an album in mid 2011. The idea was to write and record 15 or more tracks and choose the best 9 or so for the project. All of the music has been composed for string trio, drums, electronics and vocals. I have already written 9 tracks and performed some of them live, but it’s taken a back seat for the moment as I’m finishing quite a few EPs, working on remixes and relaunching Residual Recordings. I’ll go back to working on it before the end of the year. There are a few labels that are interested but let’s see…I don’t want to get ahead of myself.
Let’s go back to Residual Recordings for a moment. You’ve featured Todd Sines a number of times on the label, and remixed his tracks back in 1998 when you first started Residual. You met in 1991 when you were just teenagers. Do you still jam together?
Yes, we met in 1991! We were together in a band called “Body Release” from about 1991 until late 1993. Todd and I are still very much in contact. In fact we made a track together not so long ago. I am not quite sure where it will end up. I’m sure there’ll be more collaboration in the future. In fact, I’m playing with him at a Detroit’s Movement afterparty this year.
It’s nice to see that you and Todd have been featured on YAY and Sleepers respectively. We fully support both labels! You must get production requests from a number of labels – what made YAY stand out for you?
I feel very fortunate that the requests keep coming in. With YAY it was the way in which Luca approached me. He was precise with what he was looking for musically, and his vision for the label. We’ve developed a good working relationship and we’ll definitely be working together in the future !
Were the tracks on the Persevere EP previously unreleased music?
All the tracks for that EP were composed in 2015. The only one that I had already started when the inquiry came in was “The Reason Why”. To be honest, with the exception of songs that I’ve put aside for my album, I currently have no unreleased tracks that are not already signed to labels.
And how was your gig at YAY last October?
Terrific! A very responsive crowd. The sound system was on point and the hospitality was top notch. Really looking forward to playing for the YAY crew again.
S-Max recently said, “Before you consider yourself a “DJ”, maybe you should get an idea what this art could be about by experiencing a set of TITONTON DUVANTE and then reflect on what you have to say and how!”
WOW. Those are really kind words from SMAX. He wrote to me the day after I played for the Deep Fried party at about blank in Berlin…he really enjoyed the set. [smiles]
So when and how did you start DJing? Were there any DJs that you particularly looked up to in terms of their craft? And how would you define a good DJ set?
I started getting serious about DJing back in 1994. At that time I really looked up to Claude Young, Jeff Mills, Derrick May, Stacey Pullen, Derrick Carter, Dieselboy, Laurent Garnier and Dave Clark. In my opinion, a good DJ set transports the listener to another space via the track selection and way it’s put together. This is a set that stands out and pulls me in. In this last year I have heard some phenomenal sets that’ll stay in my mind for a while: The Black Madonna at Club Toilet 2015 (Movement Festival afterparty), Sassmouth at the Midwest Fresh 1 year anniversary party in August, then Mike Servito and Erika also at Midwest Fresh this year. Nicolas Lutz at Club der Visionaere, and of course Derrick Carter still slays it each and EVERYTIME.
I remember listening to your Drum and Bass set a while back. You must have a monstrous record collection of different genres… How did DnB inspire you?
4hero and the Reinforced label in particular left an impression on me as a producer. I still listen to their “Parallel Universe” LP from 1994 in awe. Drum and bass really pushed forward with sound manipulation.
Your music has been described as “masterful and deeply seductive”. Even the titles of your music ring sexual “over”-tones. How do you perceive it – is techno sexy for you?
Absolutely. Electronic music is super sexy.
What would you say are some sexy non-dance music tracks? Have you ever taken inspiration from them?
Tin Man “Constant Confusion” comes to mind. I think J Davey makes some VERY sexy tunes – the track “No more” is too serious. Victorialand by the Cocteau Twins is another sexy record for me. I’ve definitely drawn inspiration from some of their chord progressions.
You mentioned the keyboard was one of the first instruments that you ever laid your hands on: you made your own song at the age of 5, studied classical music at university and went on to become a composer. So that must be you on the keys in your tracks? Do you use your own vocals as well…
That is definitely me on the keys in my tracks. I do all my string arrangements as well. There are some spots of me doing vocals on Selections for Intercourse and there are quite a few tracks on my upcoming album where I’ll be singing!
You once said that you were 100% hardware. Does this statement still hold true today? In your opinion what sounds can you achieve only on hardware? Would you say that there are sounds that are equally only achievable on software?
I was 100% hardware until 2002. But working on tunes with Fabrice Lig and John Tejada really brought me over to the computer-based production side. I would say that a mix of hardware and software is best. Computer-based production gives you options, especially in terms of editing. However, you could end up labouring endlessly over the minute details.
You’ve cut up and remixed so many tracks, which would you say has been your favourite?
The Refreak EP for Designforms are all my takes on tunes from their back catalogue. I still play these out when I DJ. And the remix I did for Monsoon of a tune called “My Best Friend”…that I really like.
It’s all about “Refreak” remixes! And your top 3 most memorable productions?
Another difficult question. On the whole, I would say my Voyeurism LP. Recently, my “Persevere” track for YAY. And then I would say “Down South (Dub)” on Neroli, which will see a repress in the future.
Thank you so much for your time! Look forward to hearing your music for many more years to come.
Cover photo by Leah Hoover
Edited by Kaajal Shah